I haven’t come across many new reviews of Damsels in Distress this week, but let’s have a look at what there is…At Buffalo News Jeff Simon loved the movie at first but then felt it lost its way:
I found myself sitting heavy-lidded after those first 45 minutes when it’s clear that Stillman and his kids are comically oh-so-tastefully dressed up with no place in the plot to go. A lot of marking time is done here. …
I wouldn’t have missed Stillman’s extended set-up to his extended gag. I do think, though, the punch line needed work.
Jeremy Kibler at CultureMob had similar feelings:
Dialogue extraordinaire Whit Stillman was the Diablo Cody of the ’90s and continues here writing sparkling, arch dialogue that can feel “written” and self-conscious. The filmmaker goes for a retro, affectedly odd vibe with his idiosyncratic characters living inside a heightened reality, a bubble of a campus that isn’t far off from Stepford. It’s fascinatingly ethereal and pretty funny for the first half-hour, until it’s just off-putting and goes a long way.
But Josef Woodard at the Santa Barbara Independent is more all-round positive:
Depending on your perspective and particular sense of humor, Whit Stillman’s brilliant and dryly funny new film may inspire uproarious laughter, gentle sniggers, bemused smirks, yawns of apathy, or, well, all of the above. For this filmgoer, the responses included everything but apathy, and an awakening sense of rediscovery of one of America’s brightest and least productive directors, this being only Stillman’s fourth feature since he debuted with Metropolitan in 1990. We need much more of this kind of smart, subtle artistry in American film.
Finally, Whit Stillman is interviewed by Haden Guest in the latest issue of Film Comment, although the article isn’t available online unfortunately. I thought I’d pull out a paragraph in which Stillman expands on the idea of “flit lit”, referenced in Damsels, but which I don’t think he’s elaborated on at such length elsewhere:
[Harvard professor Walter Jackson] Bate described a trend in criticism in touch with 18th-century traditions. In Damsels we talk about the dandy tradition, the “flit lit” tradition—that is deprecating college slang for something that is important — this tradition that comes down from Johnson to Laurence Sterne to Jonathan Swift, and then to the Oscar Wilde era and eventually Evelyn Waugh, and separately Jane Austen. But Austen is in a sense a female fictional flowering of Dr. Johnson. And then for us the other huge impact was J.D. Salinger and mostly his short stories, like Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and those in the Franny and Zooey collection. When Salinger wrote about his influences, he evoked this great train of dandy literature going right back. I would just add Salinger to this list. Because it’s the people you hysterically admire that really influence you.
Thanks to Jesper Larsson for that tip.
And that’s us all caught up. Have a good weekend!